The Chinese class that I’ve been attending has an interesting diversity of people. Nearly everyone is here for six months or a year. People are mostly Thai and South Korean, with a few Westerners, one Vietnamese and one (I think) Japanese. Many of those from Thailand and Korea are young university students, often majoring in Chinese in their own university, and taking a sandwhich year here. Of the Westerners, two are already working or have been working in China (setting up an Irish pub, opening fitness centres), one is going to teach English for an NGO in the north-west of Yunnan province, and one is likely to work in China after the course.
There are also lots of other foreigners studying here, who you pass in the street or meet in bars. I think many of them are studying other aspects of Chinese culture; the language section seems to be part of a university Centre for Chinese studies. There are a few older people who have been hanging out here on and off for several years, mastering Chinese in their retirement.
It’s quite easy to make friends. Partly this is because everyone wants to practice English, so everyone from some of the Koreans in my class, to some girls studying law who were sitting near me at lunch have given me contact details. Also white people are much easier to talk to than in England, because there are few of them. It’s possible to strike up a conversation with a stranger in the street, and easy to meet more in bars, or be introduced. I’ve been too busy studying, and feeling that my presence here is ephemeral to take full advantage of these opportunities.